No snow

While the U.S. is buried under a huge pile of snow, it is still unseasonably warm here. We eat breakfast in the conservatory and it’s not uncomfortable to leave the doors open so the dogs can charge wander in and out while we scoff our porridge.
I feel kind of cheated, I mean, we live as far North as it’s possible to get on the British mainland and even when we’ve had snow, it’s been far worse farther South. How does that happen?!? (Actually that was a rhetorical question, technically I have a little understanding why it is, something to do with the Gulf Stream and living on the coast but emotionally it makes me want to stamp my feet).
Snow maintains a magical quality, probably something to do with years of conditioning in response to clever marketing of perfect Christmases and crackling log fires and very little to do with the misery I imagine many are living with somewhere on the other side of the Atlantic right now.
When we lived in a city, snow was especially beautiful as it threw a clean (well initially) blanket over all the grime and tatters; here it adds to the view, making everything picture perfect.
It’s the perfect weather for us knitters, spinners and weavers too. We can snuggle down and knit/spin/weave away to our hearts’ content and when we have to leave the comforts of central heating, don the scarves, hats, sweaters and gloves that we have been dying to show off all year (unless like me, you just can’t wait so end up sweltering in a fair isle in July muttering about how wool is supposed to be temperature regulating).
So until the mythical Arctic Freeze arrives I shall content myself with a photo from some time back.

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Happy hooking

I’ve been enjoying a little bit of hooking recently. My knitting got cast aside after I realised, several months of knitting in, that the jumper in progress will fit both me and Mr Weaving Heart at the same time! I’m not really sure what happened that I hadn’t realised this before really. So it has been relegated to The Cupboard where it will remain until I forget that it’s HUGE and denial has set back in.
Until then, I thought I would make another crocheted blanket.
This is the previous one;

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and I love it, it’s bright, cheerful and being largely made from the ‘A’ word it can withstand lots of washing and tumble drying. I have commenced upon a similar one; the yarn is Stylecraft and is cheap as chips, the pattern is from the lovely Lucy of Attic 24 (Google her, I’m simply too lazy to sort out a link, sorry) and is fabulous mindless evening crafty indulgence.

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The weaving studio is nearly nearly finished and we’re just awaiting the reappearance of the electrician to wire up the fuse box for things like light and heat, nothing important then. I will say no more, just know that my silence speaks volumes.

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I must be warped

Well, the wicked witch of the warping weaver (how’s that for alliteration?!?) has paid me a visit today. Sad face.
I’ve been waiting for a sectional warping beam to arrive and then waiting for the right opportunity to get it all set up and learn how to use it.
I finished a warp at the weekend and the next one planned was for a scarf commission for 5/2 bamboo in stripes (it’s a pinwheel draft so that means a stripy warp with a stripy weft to make cute little windmills) so not too fine and fairly straightforward.
Ha! You think so…?
Ok, first I had to work out how much yarn to wind onto the bobbins, the yarn winds straight from these onto the beam and you need one bobbin for every thread in the warp.

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For the beam on my loom, I can wind it in 2cm (all metric, I’ll have to learn not to think in inches) sections so for this I needed 16 bobbins for each one. Well to be honest I kind of winged it; the instructions suggest weighing the bobbins and then winding on the weight of yarn needed and subtracting the bobbin weight from the final weight to work out how much yarn you have wound on….eh?!? What a performance. Firstly, I don’t think in terms of yarn weight anyway, well maybe for knitting but definitely not for weaving; so I simply couldn’t be doing with trying to get my head around that. Secondly, it seemed like a real faff; winding a bit, taking the bobbin off the winder to weigh it, winding a bit more…you get my drift?
So I simply kind of looked at it. And then wound on a bit more, just to be sure and to abate the weaving Goddess.
Then the bobbins go onto the bobbin rack, a la the photo. Easy. Well, until I knocked it and all the spindles fell out and the bobbins all slid off and the ends got tangled up. Much swearing occurred at this point.
Next came the threading of each end through the tension device (the scary looking thing with the big cog attached to the loom).
Each end. Through the tension device.
I’ll say no more about this part.
Once I’d managed to attach these to the beam, I could start to wind the section onto the loom, bent double while holding up the friction break. This bit hurt.
That’s it, no harder than this, except to repeat this step a further 19 times.
And this was a relatively narrow warp (39cm). Once on the loom (several days later) it looked like this.

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Lots of neatly lined up threads, all smoothly sitting on the warping beam. Not. As you can see, some are all a bit wobbly and wibbley and some threads had kind of hopped over into the next section while I wasn’t looking too, the little monkeys. I foresaw horrendous tension issues later on.
I managed to sort these out as best that I could and get it all threaded and tied on. It was lovely to be doing something familiar and comfortable, I was looking forward to the actual weaving, my favourite part.
I wound some pirns (the bit that holds the yarn in the shuttle), sat in front of the loom and pressed down the first treadle. Yikes!! What was that?!? Half of the threads went all scarily loose. I tightened the warp and tried again. Heavens, there it was again. Then I looked around the back of the loom, ready to glare threateningly at the sectional beam and saw this.

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I’d neglected to take the warp over the back beam. Horrors!
At this point Mr Weaving Heart happened to walk passed and caught me with my head in my hands, muttering softly to myself, possibly drooling a little too. He came to my rescue with a strong cup of tea, several chocolate biscuits and A PLAN. What a star!
He managed to take off the back beam, slid it under the warp without disturbing the threads and get it like this.

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All good and proper like. Hurrah!
Anyway, no tension issues later (how this happened I know not but I am oh sooo grateful), it looks a bit like this.

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Yarn

I’ve been thinking about yarn a lot this week; more than usual that is. Specifically about where it comes from such as where and how it is produced.
The reason for this is following an online conversation with some of the Weaving Heart Chatter Group (more about that another time). We were talking about merino wool and the issues associated with it like mulesling and the fact that much is produced in Australia.
Sheep bred in hot climates, like Australia, are prone to ‘flystrike’ where blowflies lay eggs on their skin which hatch and the larvae bury into the flesh creating open sores; flies are attracted to damp areas such as urine soaked buttocks and merino sheep have folds in their fleece making them particularly susceptible. Clearly this is both very painful and potentially life threatening so farmers try to prevent this happening.
One method of doing so is to remove the skin from around the rear end of the sheep as once healed, it remains fleece free and less likely to attract blowflies. While this is regarded as a highly skilled practice, it is not legislated by the Australian government and has been criticised as cruel and inhumane.
Following the discussion I came to thinking about Weaving Heart and some of the values I wish to apply in respect to running a business. Clearly, this would have to include using cruelty free yarn. One of the yarns I use a lot for weaving is Jagger Spun Zephyr, a silk/merino blend. It comes in a wide range of shades, is beautifully soft and has a wonderful sheen once woven. I realised it was time I got responsible about knowing where my yarn came from and I emailed Jagger Spun asking them about the origin of their merino. I was very impressed to hear from them the same day with a clear answer saying that all of their merino is from mulesling free sources. Phew! I can continue to weave with Zephyr happily.
However, it also made me reconsider the sense that I’m not altogether comfortable using yarn from outside the UK. Now, it’s much harder to source weaving yarn, compared to yarn for knitting etc, within the UK. I can use laceweight knitting yarn but it’s not made specifically for weaving and has less twist and tensile strength, so not that suitable for weaving the baby wraps that make up the bulk of my weaving. However, there’s no reason why I can’t use and promote British yarns which led me to these lovelies.

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They came from John Arbon Textiles, a small family run business with some gorgeous locally grown yarns. I’m hoping they will make equally gorgeous scarves in time for Christmas.
I’m struggling on with my table loom (why, oh why?) and making some fabric for curtains for the new shed. What with my shuttle taking a nose dive every few picks and having to walk around to the back of the loom to advance the warp, we are not getting on that well. I predict an EBay listing very soon…

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Shedding fears

The Weaving Heart shed is coming along slowly. I think building sheds must be a little like weaving in that only shed builders fully understand what goes into making one while the rest of us stand around non-plussed at what all the fuss is about and asking ‘why is it taking so long?!?’.
I’m an impatient soul and keep taking cups of tea out (as I write that I’ve realised what may be contributing to the time factor here…) to assess progress and say in my head ‘What do you mean you’re still laying the floor?!?’.
I also think our builder has my equivalent of several looms too; do a bit on one then wander off to another one and have a go on that for a change. I understand this, for me there’s nothing more mind numbing than only having one project on the go and you only need to take a look at my WIPs on Ravelry to see that I enjoy multitasking.
To assuage my impatience I’ve joined Pinterest and started a ‘studio’ board where pinning pretty pictures of other people’s workspaces makes me feel that lovely sense of hope that one day, maybe, I’ll have one like that too.

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As you can see, it’s a bit, well, orange. I’m not sure about this, if I’m honest, but as I will be mainly inside I’m telling myself it’s not that important. I don’t like to see myself as someone who insists the whole thing is repainted just because I don’t like the colour! That smacks of princess behaviour, of which I’m probably guilty but I just don’t like other people to actually know about it.
Ok, now I’ve done whinging. This is my view from the window next to where my loom will be.

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How wonderful! Some years back I read an article in a knitting magazine that featured Alice Starmore, an amazing designer and yarn dyer, who lives on the Isle of Lewis and there was a photo of her sitting in a chair, with a basket of yarn next to her, looking out on the view from her studio across the sea.
I honestly think this single image is what brought us to Caithness and now to building a shed for our weaving business. I’m not naive enough to think that this will make me happy and solve all of my problems; doing what could be called a ‘geographical’ doesn’t bring joy in itself as where ever I go I take me with me. But, I’ve learnt to reach for what is in my dreams and achieving this gives me a great sense of satisfaction.
I’m having a lot of fun too designing the fabric for the shed curtains, they will need to be thick and cosy as well as embodying my weaving for any visitors to the shed. Since making some curtains for our bedroom, I’ve kind of unconsciously set ‘rules’ for making textiles for use by me in that I’m not ‘allowed’ (watch out! The Weaving Police!) to buy anything to make them with, they have to use up some of my stash. So I spun up some fibre I bought a while ago which will be the weft

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What I have learnt

It’s a tricky business blogging. I never know quite how much I can safely tell you about myself, how much you want to know about me and why you are reading this.
I came to the wonderful world of blogging as a reader of knitting blogs. My absolute favourite, and this hasn’t changed over the years, is the Yarn Harlot as she is firstly a genius knitter and I just drool over her projects, but I also really like her outlook upon life. She espouses positive parenting, celebrates other people’s talents and raises money for Medicin sans Frontiers. All in all just a lovely person. Oh, and she’s funny too.
But I confess, I’ve stopped actually reading her blog. ‘Why?’ I hear you cry? Well, I’m not knitting so much at the mo but also because she started cycling, and worse, blogging about cycling, which just served to remind me what a complete couch potato I am. I’m fickle like that.
One of the things WordPress does is tell me things like how many of you read this, where you are (with your address and everything…only kidding, just your country) and which topics are most popular. The problem is that I don’t seem to have, what they call in trendy young people type places, a demographic. The topics you guys most like reading about range from the Lightning Process to weaving to Caithness so I have no idea why you are here. Hence why I just tend to ramble about whatever is going on in my little world at the moment but at the same time trying not to commit the crime of Too Much Information.
So what I have learnt over the last week or so includes the fact the we are facing a gale tomorrow. It is the tail end of something from across the Atlantic and Mr Weaving Heart has just said the worst possible thing: ‘We haven’t had a power cut for ages‘. Hmmm, I’ll keep you updated with that one. Caithness is invariably windy at this time of year so what constitutes a gale for the rest of the UK, is fairly standard here. We have fewer trees, fewer buildings and less people to blow around so the impact is much less than similar strength winds blasting through the centre of, say, Birmingham.
I’ve grown to love lying in bed listening to the wind howl, it makes you very glad for central heating, a cuddley husband and furry dogs to keep you company. The waves can be very dramatic and the sea gets so churned up that ‘snow flakes’ of sea foam gust across the roads.
I’ll keep you updated about the power cut. It may mean no central heating and hubby evicted to the spare room as of course it will now be his fault (he is that powerful!) if the power lines go down. At least I’ll have the doggies.

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Humpf

So I didn’t win. I didn’t even come in the top 3, or top 10 come to that.
In case you have no idea what I’m on about, see the previous post, but I didn’t win.
I’m trying to be all noble about it but I’m a little put out. I know I don’t look it , but I’m really only 13 and my ego is a fragile beast.
Take a look; it’s ok, I can show you now.

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That was my entry: a doubleweave baby wrap, using over 2000 (I’ve pretty much told everyone this bit…and will continue to do so for years to come) ends. For the non-weavers, those are the long threads, each of which had to be wound, threaded through a teeny hole then pulled through a teeny gap. For the weavers out there – I KNOW!!
It’s made with embroidery thread as I didn’t want it to be stiff and unfloppy which doubleweave can be if you’re not careful, in about 18 different shades. Its mercerised cotton so has a slight gleem to it, especially in the sunlight.
It was inspired by Kilmt’s ‘Mother and Child’, I think the squares of the draft/pattern reflect his use of gold and colouring. I wanted to give an impression of the hues used in the painting as well as ‘becoming’ the arms of the mother around the child, through the purpose of the wrap itself.
I was really disappointed with the selvedges, they were neat on the loom but post-wash they went all, how can I say it, wonky. Plus I had some major thread shifting right in the middle, I have no idea why – which is unhelpful as I don’t know how to avoid it again – so have had to cut a whole chunk off as it just wouldn’t be safe for wrapping.
That said, I love it and am just a little proud I’ve made something like this.

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The other entries were stunning. At least a couple are truly pieces of art in their own rights and designed with breathtaking creativity. Some of the ones that did well were very simple weaves but very lovely in their use of colour and the way they translated the inspirations.
Although I didn’t do as well as I could have, and over the weekend I felt low as I allowed it to briefly epitomise all of my weaving, I had some wonderful comments once the voting was over and I was able to get it back into perspective. It is only a baby wrap. That is all.
By the way, it’s currently up for auction here http://hyenacart.com/weavingheart/mt/6467/74016/Handwoven-baby-wrap